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Project Examples

Heat Transfer Analysis for the First and Second Floor Office Areas for the Mental Health Association (MHA) of Greater Lowell

Course: 10.304 Heat Transfer
Semester: Spring 2007
Instructor: Al Donatelli
Partner:Mental Health Association (MHA) of Greater Lowell

Initially, UML students met with the executive director to survey the MHA building to assess the current state of heating equipment, needs and challenges. The MHA building is attached to the First United Baptist Church, yet has its’ own heating system. The Mental Health Association has been a tenant at this location for about 25 years. Initially the building was designed and built as classrooms and has two main floors with a basement, all of which have mainly small offices: four administration-oriented offices in which an average of four people work, and the rest are clinical offices. The heat is distributed from a basement gas boiler to each floor through hydronic pipes and baseboard heaters. On the basement a few standalone space heaters were being used to keep offices warm, other rooms were kept hot because of the piping in the ceiling, and one of the administration offices was reported to get overly warm. At times windows are opened to cool off some of the offices, particularly in the afternoon when the sun shines in the windows that face south and west. Another key factor that student needed to take into consideration for this project is the fact that as a mental health facility there is a need to protect and maintain patient/doctor confidentiality. Currently, a device is used in most rooms to creates white noise so that people in adjacent rooms cannot over hear conversations.

UML students in the Heat Transfer course performed a heat transfer analysis for the office areas on the first and second floors of the MHA. They determined heating requirements for a worst-case scenario in the winter as well as for a typical winter day. Students proposed alterations to improve the heating process in the office areas for the first and second floors of the MHA. This S-L project exposed UML students to important aspects of engineering work such as: working in a group environment; performing work for a client; and interacting with a client. Also, the students were exposed to an open-ended problem in which they applied their engineering knowledge and good engineering judgment. Some of the students enjoyed applying their knowledge to a “real-life” engineering problem. They realized that real problems are open-ended and do not always have a single answer such as those shown in typical textbook problems.

Learning objectives met by the S-L project were for students to:

  • Reinforce and apply their knowledge of heat transfer principles
  • Solve an actual engineering problem in a real-world setting

Community objectives met by the S-L project:

  • Useful recommendations
  • Information to improve the heating process at MHA and reduce heating costs